Israel-Sweden Davis Cup tie to be played without audience

February 19th, 2009 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 19(IANS) Sweden and Israel’s first-round Davis Cup tie will be played next month in an empty arena because of security concerns.
The decision comes after Israeli player Shahar Peer was denied a visa to play in this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships.

Several anti-Israeli demonstrations are planned during the best-of-five match series, which will be played between March 6-8 at the 4,000-seat Baltiska Hallen, Sweden.

“They will not sell tickets to the general public because they are expecting provocation by troublemakers who have nothing to do with the sport,” Michael Klein, chairman of the Israel Tennis Federation was quoted as saying in the Guardian. “It’s terrible that they are trying to mix politics with sport, especially in an enlightened country like Sweden.

“I trust the Swedes to hold the game in the spirit of sport and not politics. It is a group of troublemakers who want to get attention who are doing this.”

Authorities at Malmo announced Thursday that the decision has been taken after a vote on the issue among the city’s recreational committee. The Social Democratic Party and the Left Party won the vote to keep the public out after a long debate. The committee said it could not guarantee security for the fans.

The decision was a purely political vote, with the Social Democratic Party and the Left Party prevailing.

“This is a black day for Malmo as a city,” said the Conservative vice-chairman of the committee Catharina Elgh-Linander

“This was a democratic question. It was our responsibility to have measures in place to ensure five Israeli players’ safety. Instead this is a victory for stirrers who you can trace on Google. It has been quite frightening to read [about the threats].”

The chairman of the Swedish Tennis Federation, Stefan Dahlbo, added: “We would have wanted to play in front of our fans but in the end it was a decision that the council and the police had to make. We are just happy that it will be shown on the television.”

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